The chequered history of the antiphospholipid syndrome

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Consideration of the chronology of advances in medical knowledge can provide useful insights into the pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. The antiphospholipid syndrome is an enigmatic disorder and this is reinforced by the misleading associated terminology, the adoption of which results directly from early discoveries relating to the condition. Thus the target antigen of the causative autoantibodies in antiphospholipid syndrome does not reside on phospholipid, and the frequently associated lupus anticoagulant is not restricted to subjects with systemic lupus erythematosus and, paradoxically, despite causing prolongation of clotting times in vitro it is associated with a pronounced tendency to thrombosis. Recognition of the antiphospholipid syndrome has its origins in the identification of subjects with so-called biological false-positive serological reactions for syphilis in the middle years of the last century. Since that time there have been considerable advances in our understanding of the pathogenesis of the disease and the clinical manifestations and associations, improved diagnostic accuracy and an evolving evidence base for optimal therapy. However many gaps in our knowledge remain.

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